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Lucas McGranahan: "Darwinism and Pragmatism: William James on Evolution and Self-Transformation"
November 20, 2014 @ 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm
Crown 208 | Free
Lucas McGranahan: “Darwinism and Pragmatism: William James on Evolution and Self-Transformation”
Thursday November 20, 2:00 – 3:45 pm
Crown 208, UC Santa Cruz
William James presages twentieth-century Neo-Darwinism in his physiological approach to
mental life, his early repudiation of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, and his
creative extension of the concepts of variation and selection to a variety of non-biological
domains. Indeed, James was the first ‘double-barreled’ Darwinian psychologist in that he
was the first to explain individual learning and phylogenetic mental evolution in terms of
analogous processes of variation and selection. However, the chief lessons of Darwinism
for James were not the materialism, mechanism, or reductionism of later Neo-Darwinism,
but rather (1) the idea that both science and philosophy are open-ended processes of
fallible, inductive guesswork, and (2) the idea of consciousness as an evolved and
efficacious ‘fighter for ends.’ In short, Darwinism for James signals a world that is both
theoretically and actually ‘in the making,’ with the individual as an active participant.
Lucas McGranahan is an independent scholar and nonprofit professional living in Oakland,
California. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and English from the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In
2011 he won the Douglas Greenlee Prize for best paper by an early-career scholar from
the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, and he is the recipient of
multiple teaching honors from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has published
on evolutionary theory and pragmatism in The Pluralist.